Tag Archives: regulations

June 29, 1989: SWTR and Total Coliform Rules Promulgated

June 29, 1989: Surface Water Treatment Rule and Total Coliform Rules promulgated on this date. These are two of the most important drinking water regulations adopted by the USEPA under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. A summary of the SWTR stated: “This notice, issued under the Safe Drinking Water Act, publishes maximum contaminant level goals for Giardia lamblia viruses, and Legionella; and promulgates national primary drinking water regulations for public water systems using surface water sources or ground water sources under the direct influence of surface water that include (1) criteria under which filtration (including coagulation and sedimentation, as appropriate) are required and procedures by which the States are to determine which systems must install filtration, and (2) disinfection requirements. The filtration and disinfection requirements are treatment technique requirements to protect against the potential adverse health effects of exposure to Giardia lamblia, viruses, Legionella, and heterotrophic bacteria, as well as many other pathogenic organisms that are removed by these treatment techniques. This notice also includes certain limits on turbidity as criteria for (1) determining whether a public water system is required to filter; and (2) determining whether filtration, if required, is adequate.”

Commentary: The SWTR has been changed substantially by subsequent regulations and the Total Coliform Rule has been radically altered. However, these two regulations contributed significantly to the improvement of public water supplies in the U.S. in the later part of the twentieth century.

June 7, 1991: Lead Copper Rule Published

June 7, 1991:In 1991, EPA published the Lead and Copper Rule to minimize lead and copper in drinking water. The rule replaced the previous standard of 50 ppb, measured at the entry point to the distribution system. The rule established a maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) of zero for lead in drinking water and a treatment technique to reduce corrosion within the distribution system….

Lead and copper enter drinking water primarily through plumbing materials. Exposure to lead and copper may cause health problems ranging from stomach distress to brain damage. On June 7, 1991, EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule (also referred to as the LCR or 1991 Rule).

The treatment technique for the rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion. If the action level for lead is exceeded, the system must also inform the public about steps they should take to protect their health and may have to replace lead service lines under their control.”

Commentary: This short entry hardly seems worthy of a regulation and a water quality problem that has captured the imagination of politicians, citizens and the media. The Flint Crisis crystalizes a few important issues in this complicated regulation, which was not applied properly in Flint, MI, after a change in water source on April 25, 2014. For an in depth exploration of the issues and problems of the Flint Crisis, consult the July 2016 issue of the Journal American Water Works Association.

The front of the Flint Water Plant is seen in Flint, Michigan January 13, 2016. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

May 13, 1899: NY Times Articles on Sanitary Engineering Books; 1973: Hazardous Drinking Water

Turn of the 20th Century Sanitary Engineering Books

May 13, 1899: An extraordinary article in the New York Times by J. James R. Croes summarized and reviewed books and periodicals on “The Latest and Best in Current Literature–Sanitary Engineering Books.” The article listed the important sanitary engineering books that had been published up to that date, including: A Treatise on Water Supply and Hydraulic Engineering by John T. Fanning; Elements of Water Supply Engineering, E. Sherman Gould; The Filtration of River Water, James P. Kirkwood; Water Supply , Considered Principally from a Sanitary Standpoint, William P. Mason; Examination of Water, William P. Mason; The Purification of Public Water Supplies, John W. Hill; The Filtration of Public Water Supplies, Allen Hazen; The Microscopical Examinations of Potable Water, George C. Whipple; The Venturi Water Meter,” Clemens Herschel (Cassler’s Magaine).

Commentary: I used this article to begin collecting the references I would need to write, The Chlorine Revolution: Water Disinfection and the Fight to Save Lives, which has now been published by the American Water Works Association. These wonderful and, in some cases, outmoded books are sitting on my bookshelves along with other rare books from that era.

May 13, 1973: New York Times headline–Impure Tap Water a Growing Hazard to the Health of Millions across the U.S. The article listed problems with drinking water across the country and summarized legislation in the U.S. Congress that ultimately became know as the Safe Drinking Water Act. The article claimed that only 15 states were adhering to the 1962 U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards which were originally set to regulate drinking water used on interstate carriers. Other conditions included:

Only 15 states even purport to adhere precisely to U.S. Public Health Service drinking water standards.

Some 23 million people are probably drinking substandard water regularly from public water systems.

At least eight million people are getting what Federal officials call “potentially dangerous” water.

Upwards of 500,000 people are currently supplied water that the Federal Government has banned from interstate commerce as hazardous.

Over half of the nation’s water systems are deficient, in Federal officials’ judgment, in facilities, operations or competent personnel.

Commentary: This story and many others like it were part of the drumbeat that led to the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974.

#TDIWH—February 23, 1893: Interstate Quarantine Act Becomes Law

0223 Interstate Quarantine RegulationsFebruary 23, 1893: Interstate Quarantine Act becomes law. “In 1893 Congress passed the Interstate Quarantine Act to reduce the spread of communicable diseases through interstate commerce. The act gave the Department of the Treasury broad powers to establish regulations preventing the spread of disease from one state to another in the following clause (Cumming 1932; Kraut 1994):

‘The Secretary of the Treasury shall, if in his judgment it is necessary and proper, make such additional rules and regulations as are necessary to prevent the introduction of such diseases (communicable) into the United States from foreign countries, or into one State or Territory or the District of Columbia from another State or Territory or the District of Columbia ….’

This clause was not immediately perceived as requiring any regulations relating to drinking water. In fact, methods of bacteriological analysis and water treatment were not sufficiently developed at this time for the establishment of quantitative standards.”

Reference: Fischbeck, Paul S. and R. Scott Farrow eds. Improving Regulation: Cases in Environment, Health and Safety. Washington, DC:Resources for the Future. 2001, p. 52.

Commentary: However, in 1912 the common cup was banned on interstate carriers using this law as the basis for regulation by the Treasury Department. In 1914, the first microbiological drinking water regulations were adopted under the Interstate Quarantine Act that governed the quality of water served aboard interstate carriers (trains, riverboats and Great Lakes steamers).

#TDIWH— January 22, 2001: Arsenic Rule Final

Map of typical levels of Arsenic in U.S.  water supplies

Map of typical levels of Arsenic in U.S. water supplies

January 22, 2001: Final Rule for Arsenic in Drinking Water. “Today’s final rule revises the current Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) from 50 µg/L to 10 µg/L and sets a Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) of zero for arsenic in drinking water. In addition, this final rule also clarifies how compliance is demonstrated for many inorganic and organic contaminants in drinking water…. Both community water systems (CWSs) and non-transient, non-community water systems (NTNCWSs) will be required to reduce the arsenic concentration in their drinking water systems to 10 µg/L…. All CWSs and all NTNCWSs that exceed the MCL of 10 µg/L will be required to come into compliance 5 years after the publication of the final rule. Beginning with reports that are due by July 1, 2002, all CWSs will begin providing health information and arsenic concentrations in their annual consumer confidence report (CCR) for water that exceeds ½ the new MCL….

In the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), Congress directed EPA to propose a new arsenic regulation by January 1, 2000 and to issue the final rule by January 1, 2001 (Congress subsequently extended the final rule date to June 22, 2001). EPA published the proposed rule for arsenic on June 22, 2000. The rule proposed an MCL of 5 µg/L for arsenic and EPA took comment on regulatory options of 3 µg/L (the feasible level), 10 µg/L and 20 µg/L. The 1996 amendments to SDWA added discretionary authority for the EPA Administrator to adjust the maximum contaminant level (MCL) if the benefits would not justify the costs (§1412(b)(6)). Today’s rule is important because it is the second drinking water regulation in which EPA will use the discretionary authority under §1412(b)(6) of SWDA. After careful consideration of the benefits and the costs, EPA has decided to set the drinking water standard for arsenic higher than the technically feasible level of 3 µg/L because EPA believes that the costs would not justify the benefits at this level. EPA believes that the final MCL of 10 µg/L maximizes health risk reduction at a cost justified by the benefits.”

January 7, 1914: First Transit of Panama Canal; 1832: Richmond Filter; 2011: Fluoride Exposure

SS Ancon first official transit of the Panama Canal in 1914.  The Alexandre La Valley was an old French crane boat that made the first unofficial transit on 1/7/1914.

SS Ancon first official transit of the Panama Canal in 1914. The Alexandre La Valley was an old French crane boat that made the first unofficial transit on 1/7/1914.

January 7, 1914:On January 7, 1914 the Alexandre La Valley became the first ship to make a complete transit of the Panama Canal. The Canal is about 50 miles long and uses a system of locks to transport ships through. The locks are 110 feet wide and 1,000 feet long. Between 13,000 and 14,000 vessels use the canal each year, accounting for about 5% of the world trade….The number of ships able to be processed through is limited by the space available. Larger ships are being built and the locks are limited by size. These forces combined are leading to the Panama Canal Expansion Project. Work began on a new set of locks in 2007 and is expected to be completed by 2014.”

Commentary: The water history connection is that the filling of the locks is accomplished by draining water from Gatun Lake that is fed by precipitation in the Panamanian rain forest. Over 26 million gallons of fresh water is lost to the ocean during each downward lock cycle. The new canal system of locks will recycle about 60 percent of the water so there will be less pressure on the local water resources. A terrific blog posted on October 21, 2012, entitled “Panama Canal Update : Why Water is still King” gave a lot of details on the water resources angle of the new canal. I recommend it.

0126 Moses N BakerJanuary 7, 1832: Completion of the first attempt to filter a public water supply in the U.S. Filtration was begun in Richmond, VA. The slow sand filters operated in an “upflow” mode and consisted of layers of sand and gravel. The design engineer was Albert Stein who built a downflow filter after the upflow version failed. Despite the problems, Moses N. Baker declared the Richmond filtration efforts the start of filtration of public water supplies in the U.S.

Reference: Baker, Moses N. 1981. The Quest for Pure Water: the History of Water Purification from the Earliest Records to the Twentieth Century. 2nd Edition. Vol. 1. Denver, Co.: American Water Works Association, 125-9.

1202 USEPAJanuary 7, 2011: To prevent overexposure to fluoride, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced proposed changes in the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water. The HHS proposed recommendation of 0.7 parts per million (ppm) of fluoride in drinking water replaced the current recommended range of 0.7 to 1.2 ppm.

December 16, 1974: Safe Drinking Water Act Signed into Law

1216 Safe Drinking Water Act signed into lawDecember 16, 1974: Safe Drinking Water Act signed into law by President Ford. “The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the principal federal law in the United States intended to ensure safe drinking water for the public. Pursuant to the act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set standards for drinking water quality and oversee all states, localities, and water suppliers who implement these standards.

SDWA applies to every public water system in the United States. There are currently more than 150,000 public water systems providing water to almost all Americans at some time in their lives. These water systems must be analyzed by third-party analytical laboratories. The Act does not cover private wells [or bottled water].”

To ensure that drinking water is safe, SDWA sets up multiple barriers against pollution. These barriers include: source water protection, treatment, distribution system integrity, and public information. Public water systems are responsible for ensuring that contaminants in tap water do not exceed the standards. Water systems treat the water, and must test their water frequently for specified contaminants and report the results to states. If a water system is not meeting these standards, it is the water supplier’s responsibility to notify its customers. Many water suppliers now are also required to prepare annual reports for their customers. The public is responsible for helping local water suppliers to set priorities, make decisions on funding and system improvements, and establish programs to protect drinking water sources. Water systems across the nation rely on citizen advisory committees, rate boards, volunteers, and civic leaders to actively protect this resource in every community in America.”